Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Andrew Hill: The Philosophical Pianist

Andrew Hill (piano; b. 1937 - d. 2007)

For those unfamiliar with Andrew Hill let me say he was the embodiment of Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell; he was heavily influenced by both, but he was an original in his own right.

He shifted between traditional compositions and more avant garde pieces, both with excellent and thought-provoking effect. The core recording I would like to recommend today is something many of you may have seen in a record store before, Point Of Departure (Blue Note, 1964).

Point Of Departure was a valiant step above his previous recordings by utilizing the wide array of strengths his band members would have to call upon. The recording features Kenny Dorham (trumpet), Eric Dolphy (alto sax), Tony Williams (drums), Richard Davis (bass) and Joe Henderson (tenor sax) whom at first glance many jazz fans would say how could this work? Well, it does fluctuate during each piece but somehow they all rise above to make this a legendary recording. Andrew Hill's writing allowed the band to feel free to move throughout the recording but was sublimely balanced enough to make each musician's contribution stand out including Joe Henderson on "Spectrum" and Tony Williams everywhere.

Andrew Hill's discography went through peaks and valleys only because of the time he took off from recording, but when he did record he recorded in huge chunks--so we are blessed with a massive catalog to enjoy. Since there isn't a "best of" collection to start from, I would highly recommend Point Of Departure as a way to challenge yourself but also to experience a great legend at the peak of his powers.

I was lucky enough to see one of his last shows in 2007 celebrating the reissue of another great album Passing Ships (Blue Note) and I have to tell you, Andrew Hill is even more phenomenal and spellbinding in person. Check out this video during the same time period. Andrew Hill would pass away a few weeks later due to lung cancer. The word gets thrown around allot (even by me) but Andrew Hill is a true legend who is already missed on the jazz scene...

Friday, September 25, 2009

What's On Your iPod?

I wanted to let you know about a few albums I've been listening to on my iPod and on the stereo and I thought you might enjoy them as well. All of these are available online. I've tried to make it a nice cross-section of interests for everyone. Let me know your thoughts if you end up purchasing any of these.

Fly Sky & Country
Mark Turner (sax), Larry Grendier (bass), Jeff Ballard (drums) have worked together for years on each of their own albums. Their group Fly have recorded only two albums. Sky & Country is their second and finds the band in fine form. Sky & Country is an excellent introductory lesson for anyone interested in jazz. A beautiful, relaxing and magnificent performance from a group that knows each others every move.

Badi Assad Wonderland
Badi Assad has over 10 albums (including collaborations). She is an accomplished guitarists who also sings in both English and Portuguese. Her most recent album Wonderland is a real jem. Wonderland was produced by famed world music producer Jagues Morelenbaum and features a duet with fellow Brazilian superstar Seu Jorge. This isn't your typical world music record by any standard. It is a jazz pop record that is perfect for any day of the week. If you are a fan of Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Milton Nascemento and Bebel Gilberto, Wonderland is a great choice for your CD player or iPod.

Roy Hargrove Emergence
Hard to believe this is Roy Hargrove's 17th album. He has been recording as leader for 20 years and hasn't made a bad record yet. Emergence is a big band album that lives up to big band standards. His choice here was to employ young sessions musicians that he has performed with over the years. So this has very fresh sound of accomplished newcomers coming into their own under a brilliant leader.

Fred Hersch Plays Jobim
One future legend performing the music of a legend--sounds good to me. If you buy any record in the next couple of months I would highly suggest Fred Herscch Plays Jobim. This is music of Brazilian jazz legend Carlos Jobim performed for the piano in magnificent fashion. Hersch pours the usual introspective joy into this mixture of well known and lesser known Jobim compositions. A definite candidate for one the top albums of the year.

Julian Lage Sounding Point
The real surprise for me so far this year is how much I'm enjoying this album. Julian Lage plays guitar like his been doing it for 40 years. He is only 19! Lage has already performed with fellow guitar greats, Carlos Santana, Pat Metheny, David Grisman and Martin Taylor. He is currently a member of New Generations led by Gary Burton (vibes). Sounding Point is his debut album and it is quite intriguing. At first I was not expecting much from a first outing but Sounding Point has blown me backwards by how impressive Lage's playing has come in just a few years on the scene--gentle, emotional and effective.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Michel Magne -- OSS 117

It seems a few years late for the retro spy revival, but who's complaining? Here is the long-awaited compilation of OSS 117 soundtracks by French soundtrack chameleon Michel Magne.

OSS 117
is the code name for Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, a free-lancing American secret agent of French origin. The character originated in paperback novels during the '50s, but didn't receive a successful film translation until the early '60s when spy fever swept the globe. In fact, the actor who provided the voice (but not the physical embodiment) of OSS 117 (Jean-Pierre Duclos) also provided the voice for the French dubbed Bond films. In terms of cinematic thrills, the OSS 117 films fall somewhere between Cubby Broccoli's big budget 007 films and the fly-by-night copy-cat spoofs made in Italy.

Four films were released between '63 and '66 and all featured Michel Magne's playfully imaginative scores befitting such settings as Thailand, Japan and Brazil. Along the way there are trad crime jazz cues, pop vamps with scat vocals, brassy big band jams, cacophonous carnival numbers, furious samba dances and stately oriental overtures. Plus, there's a remix by Roudoudou featuring sitar.

OSS 117 scores aren't likely to remind anyone of John Barry's 007 work or Jerry Goldsmith's Flint scores. They're more in keeping with the comical Italian spy sound, but not to the point of mimicry. Magne is his own man, which makes any of his work (such as and FantomasCompartiment Tueurs) worth hearing.

This review previously appeared on the author's website www.ScoreBaby.com

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

John Coltrane: My Favourite Things

John Coltrane
(saxophone, b. 1926 - d. 1967)

John Coltrane created some of the most beautiful, challenging and forward-thinking albums during his two decade plus of recording. Coltrane started as a session player in Dizzy Gillespie band before joining Miles Davis and briefly Thelonious Monk. During John Coltrane's early period his fellow musicians and critics considered him to be a legend in the making, he never say himself as that. One of the key players who Coltrane saw as an inspiration was Sonny Rollins. He mentions this during an interview at a concert in Stockholm with the Miles Davis Quartet. Worth listening too not only for the interview but the show is stellar.

While Coltane would go on to be one of the most influential artists across all genres one can only imagine what he would have done after hearing Miles Davis' Bitches Brew.

I thought I would share a brief listing of six John Coltrane CDs I believe will give you a perfect overview of one the greatest musicians of all time. I have also included a selection of compilations after this, that will give those only interested in the nutshell facts a good and broader overview but I highly recommend diving into these albums as a way of familiarize yourself with Trane's attitude towards his instrument and composition.

Traning In (Prestige Records)

Recorded in 1957 with Red Garland (piano), Art Taylor (drums) and Paul Chambers (bass). This was record many feel is Coltrane finally settling on a definitive band after numerous line up changes. The band were also members of Miles Davis' band at the time. Traning In runs the gambit of hard bop and is a nice starting point as you prepare for the classic Blue Train.

Blue Train (Blue Note Records)

Also recorded in 1957 with only Paul Chambers as one of the hold overs for this session. This is also his first recording for Blue Note and now considered one of the classic jazz albums of all time. Featuring Lee Morgan (trumpet), Paul Chambers (bass), Kenny Drew (drums), Curtis Fuller (trombone) and Philly Joe Jones (drums). A wonderful album throughout and you can easily hear Coltrane coming into his own as a major force on the scene after so many albums.You almost have to wonder after listening to Blue Train, what the previous group would have sounded like if they were in this session.

Giant Steps (Warner Brothers)

This is the album many know quite well from the memorable "Naima," "Countdown" and the title track. One of the key things to note about this release (his first for Warner Brothers) is the quality of the all original material and tightness of the musicians Trane had surrounded himself for the session. Still Chambers and Taylor but with the addition of Tommy Flanagan, Cedar Walton, Wynton Kelly, Jimmy Cobb and Lex Humphries. An album that truly stands the test of time over and over and over.

A Love Supreme (Impulse Records)

After solid records for Warner Brothers Trane moved on to Impulse Records and many watched his music begin to inter a whole new stratosphere. This would culminate in yet another groundbreaking recording session. Coltrane's spirituality began to shine through on A Love Supreme. 30+ minutes of bliss that should be listened to in one setting from start to finish to truly feel the full understanding of the session. If you don't get it on the first listen don't worry when it hits you, you won't forget it.

Crescent (Impulse Records)

Recorded just prior to A Love Supreme, Crescent was recorded a number of times (what some would call "a difficult session") in 1964 with McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums). It is a bleak recording session due what could be everything from the technical recording, the tensions between the musicians to the material Trane had written at the time. Nowhere ever as challenging as the records that followed but an excellent example of what you will be in for. Being enveloped by this record as a child was one of the reason this site exists.

OM (Impulse Records)

If you want to be really challenged from all angles than OM is the record for you. A cacophony of sound built on layers of Trane's search for higher spiritualism. Featuring Tyner, Garrison, Jones, Donald Garret, Joe Brazil and Pharoah Sanders, this is one of those records you just have to hear to believe. There aren't many words to describe what OM is expect imagine going to church and having it truly blow your mind.

There are a few multi disc compilations that will also give you an overview of each of Coltrane's monumental periods. Here are a list of box sets I believe represent this best.
Legacy (Impulse Records): Covering each label he recorded for and overseen by his son Ravi. This is probably a great starting point if you want to spend the extra cash.
Heavyweight Champion (Warner Brothers): Filled with alternate takes and upgraded sound quality this 7 disc compilation covers mainly his Warner Brothers years but is also the palatable time period for many new listeners.
The Prestige Recordings (Prestige Records): This compilation cover his early years with Prestige including all the session work with other musician as well as leader. This box set has since been broken properly into two box sets, Fearless Leader and Interplay. Both now give the proper overview of Coltrane as leader and session man.
Gold (Universal Music Group): This is a two disc set that actually gets it right. It doesn't include any material from his Prestige years but does include the most noteworthy material from his Blue Note, Atlantic and Impulse years. An absolute perfect way to start if you don't want to buy the individual albums at all. But I highly recommend that you do.
If you get the chance to listen to any of these records I believe it will help you understand jazz even more. Thanks for reading and listening...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Italian Comic Book Movie Jazz

Italians love their fumetti neri or Italian crime, mystery or spy comic book anti-heroes. Diabolik, Satanik and Kriminal are among the most famous, and each was translated to film during the 1960s.

Roberto Pregadio and Romano Mussolini’s Kriminal (’66) features a swinging beat jazz theme — heard in two instrumental versions. There are other similarly styled tracks, featuring chugging rhythm guitar and bass with organ or horns and crisp drumming. Other jazzy tracks offer intrigue, sex appeal and action, occasionally taking a lush lounge approach. The intrigue numbers sound like Barry’s music for Thunderball, which was released a year earlier, but overall the music can be described as noir crime jazz.

Pregadio and Mussolini also provided a jazz score for Satanik (’68), Piero Vivarelli's flick about an old hag who drinks a youth potion that turns her into a hot chick (Magda Konopka) known as "Satanik." Unlike the movie, the Satanik score does not disappoint. By turns jazzy, loungy, psychedelic, suspenseful, bluesy and Latinesque, Pregadio and Mussolini keep the listener guessing what's next.

Better than both is Ennio Morricone’s psycho beat score for Danger Diabolik (’67), orchestrated by the composer’s frequent collaborator Bruno Nicolai. It features wild electronic abstractions, avant-garde trumpet solos, mystical sitar-laden intrigue cues and surf rock guitar-driven action cues that rival Neal Hefti’s “Batman” theme. The music electrifyingly complements the comic book dynamism of Mario Bava’s wildly colorful film, making Diabolik one of the essential crime soundtracks of the period.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Art Blakey: The Leader Of The Cool

Art Blakey
(drums, b. 1919 - d. 1990)

Art Blakey was the founding member of one of the most important collectives in jazz history, The Jazz Messengers. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers included such luminaries as Clifford Brown, Lou Donaldson, Benny Golson, Bobby Timmons, Kenny Dorham and more. Art Blakey's band also helped launch the careers of more recent artists such as Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller and Terence Blanchard.

Art Blakey was a ferocious drummer who allowed his fellow band members to also rise above the chords they are playing. Art Blakey not only personified this image, he was the benchmark of great drummers as well as band leaders. All of his groups explored different styles including African rhythms, hard bop and standards. As with many of the jazz musicians of his stature they have recorded a large body of work so it is often a daunting task as to where to start your listening journey.

In the case of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers there isn't a really satisfying collection; I would highly recommend any of the live albums from any period. The various line ups may differ but raw emotion of the performances stays true to Blakey's vision of a high energy, free flowing gig. My three personal favorites are A Night At Birdland Vol. 1 and 2 (Blue Note), Meet You At The Jazz Corner Of The World (Blue Note) and The Complete Concert At St. Germain (Gambit). All were record in a short period ('54-'58) but with completely different groups which gives you a great insight into each musician and the sets that were played.

If you ever wondered why the name Art Blakey is so revered in jazz music these are good starting points. Below is a smokin' performance of "A Night In Tunisia" (written by Dizzy Gillespie).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Charles Mingus: The Best Of The Great

Charles Mingus
(bass, b. 1922 - d. 1979)

While the albums I discussed this week all represent the wider array of thinking this great composer and bass player encompassed, I thought that if this was a bit too much for some to bite into perhaps maybe a few suggestions of just the nuggets would be in order. It's hard to find a solid Charles Mingus compilation like for Miles, Monk, Ellington, Armstrong and more obscurely, Rashaan Roland Kirk. But there are a few that will fit the bill and at least help you understand the music and hopefully you can investigate more titles further afterwards.

The obvious one would be Thirteen Pictures: The Charles Mingus Anthology (Rhino Records) which covers pretty much everything you need from early works for Bethlehem, Savoy, Columbia , Impulse and Atlantic plus a few choice live cuts. It's three CDs but worth the money.

The other would be The Very Best of Charles Mingus (Atlantic Records). This is a single disc which covers the Atlantic years but don't think this was strictly the best period. I would say it is for the adventurousness of the composer but not for the thickness. For that I would suggest the Impulse and the Columbia years if you are just getting into Charles Mingus. I think both compilations cover the major material but if you really really want to dig more I highly suggest some of albums discussed this week in addition to the following:

1) The Complete Savoy and Period Masters (Fresh Sounds)
2) Pithecanthropus Erectus (Atlantic)
3) Tijuana Moods (RCA)
4) Mingus Three/Trio (Blue Note)
5) Mingus Dynasty (Columbia)
6) Charles Mingus Presents Mingus (Atlantic)
7) The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady (Impulse)
8) Mingus Mingus Mingus (Impulse)
9) Mingus Plays Piano (Impulse)
10) In Paris - The Complete America Session (Sunnyside)

I hope our journey into Mingus was an interesting one for you. If you end up listening to any of these please let me know what you think. I can't again say how much I recommend you buy Beneath The Underdog while you listen any of these CDs. The book reads like a story of a soul reaching for the answer but never truly finding it. It's been criticized for not containing much about music but I feel that's what makes this an even better read. Its about a glimpse of a life and how the music was shaped.

I hope you enjoy the complexed journey of this enigma who turned music and composition on its head during the 60s and foreshadowed a lot of the avant garde like a prophet. This is pure genius. This is Charles Mingus.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Charles Mingus: Live Enigma

Charles Mingus
(bass, b.1922 - d. 1979)

Continuing our discussion this week on Charles Mingus I wanted to present to you my favourite Mingus live recordings.

Live At Antibes Jazz Festival (Atlantic, 1960) is a fantastic example of Mingus' versatility as he performs on both bass and piano. Antibes is a live performance in which all musicians; Mingus (bass, piano), Eric Dolphy (alto sax), Booker Ervin (tenor sax), Ted Curson (trumpet), Bud Powell (piano), Dannie Richmond (drums) work in true simpatico.

The Antibes gig came just a few months after Charles Mingus left Columbia Records and had his two final recordings Ah Um and Dynasty were released for the label in '59.

The album feels like a precursor to the avant garde movement but also maintains a structure in which the uninitiated will definitely enjoy. The performances from Dolphy and Ervin are definite standouts.

This was an album that had remained unreleased for years until after Mingus' death in 1979. It had been one of those highly talked about shows that you wished you were there. With its emergence on CD back in the '90s, history now has a marker. Once you've listened to Ah Um this is great record to check out immediately afterward.

The Great Concert Of Charles Mingus (aka The Great Concert, Paris April 1964) (Atlantic Records)is my second favourite. This was significant for multiple reasons. First, this was a grueling European tour which took its toll on the band especially trumpeter Johnny Coles who collapsed from an ulcer during rehearsals. Second, this would be the last performance for the great saxophonist Eric Dolphy with the Mingus band (he would pass away two months later). Dolphy's presence in the group gave the band a large degree of its "free form" distinction and complimented Mingus' arrangements perfectly.

The show itself encapsulates all the elements Mingus had worked on since Ah Um and the previous four years to a wonderful conclusion despite the harsh difficulties of the reality around him and the band. The relationship with Clifford Jordon (trumpet) and Eric Dolphy during the gig is amazing and well worth turning up the volume up on the stereo.

This is one of those concerts that lives up to every expectation and more. The audience is very attentive and aware of all the nuances and provides the extra impetus for the band as it blisters its way through what would become a great but legendary concert indeed.

Below is footage from a performance in Oslo just a few days before The Great Concert set.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jazz and Justice

The Dirty Harry Series Scores by Lalo Schifrin (and Jerry Fielding)

Crime jazz. Felonious funk. Whatever you want to call it, the Dirty Harry soundtracks by Lalo Schifrin (and Jerry Fielding) are a mighty blast from two big guns of '70s film scoring, Schifrin, an Argentinean virtuoso jazz pianist, was best known for his pulse-pounding “Mission: Impossible” theme when he got the Dirty Harry assignment, and free agent Fielding grabbed the brass ring when "Schif" was briefly off the case, pursuing another beat.

Thankfully, Schifrin’s record label, Aleph, has seen fit to reissue the full scores for all of the Dirty Harry movies: Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973), The Enforcer (1976), Sudden Impact (1983), and The Dead Pool (1988).

What all of these scores share in common is a gritty, dramatic, sometimes abrasive approach to cinematic jazz.

The score for Dirty Harry may not be as immediately accessible as some of Schifrin's other scores. On the title track the push and pull of Harry Callahan's protracted struggle with the serial killer, Scorpio, is convincingly realized through the stop and start of the rhythm section and the slow rise and fall of heat-haze synthesizer. When the clattering percussion and rumbling electric bass are in motion they evoke Harry on the warpath, tracking his prey. When the rhythms take a breather, it's like Harry's hit a snag.

Tension drives the Dirty Harry score, wherein Schifrin explores the darkest tones -- much darker in fact than anything else he'd done up to that time. Just check out the fat, abrasive electric guitar on "The School Bus" – it's Schifrin at his spikiest. Throughout the score, Schifrin expertly balances funky bass and percussion with sinister woodwinds and brass, dissonant strings and disquieting keyboard lines.

There are some relatively lighter moments. "Harry's Hot Dog" sounds like the lost theme song for a Good Times spin-off sitcom. "No More Lies, Girl" is a slow soul number that wouldn't sound out of place on a blaxploitation score. "Red Light District" is more like two disparate numbers as it segues from gentle ballad to Caribbean folk dance. "Off Duty" is a lively bit of convincing post bop jamming, but the good time rock of "The Strip Club" is more evocative of a soft drink commercial than of a titty bar. It should be noted that these tracks are missing from the bootleg CD version of Dirty Harry.

Where Dirty Harry excels is in the funky evocation of San Francisco's mean streets. At its best, Schifrin's score comes off as the aural equivalent of Clint Eastwood's grim steely expression in the cover art. It makes you want to ask yourself: "Do you feel lucky? Well do you, punk?" Now that the Dirty Harry score has received an official release the answer is resoundingly "Yes!"

Magnum Force picks up from where Dirty Harry left off. What fans love about the original — restless percussion, rumbling bass lines, jazzy keyboards and dissonant strings — can be heard on Schifrin's score for the sequel. The powerhouse main title cut will rip your head off if you're not careful. It even has a killer drum break!

Like the film itself, Schifrin's score is a hair less abrasive and discordant than on Dirty Harry, but the sound is still fiercely aggressive. The name of the game here is action, not anxiety. Many of the 22 tracks bristle with balls-to-the-wall crime-fighting intensity. Like any crime soundtrack, however, there are soft moments, too ("Harry's New Friend" and "Warm Enough?").

The Enforcer was the only DH film that Jerry Fielding scored, though he was — along with Schifrin — one of Clint Eastwood's most frequent scorers during the actor's most productive period. Following The Enforcer Fielding also scored Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales ('76), The Gauntlet ('77), and shortly before the composer died, Escape from Alcatraz ('79).

This is the sound of Fielding at his most vital and vivacious. He makes no attempt to reinvent the DH sound, and shrewdly follows Schifrin's established style for the series through the deft use of throbbing electric bass, wah guitar rhythms, percolating percussion, dissonant strings, brash brass and keyboard atmospherics. "Rooftop Chase" is the requisite bit of cop funk, but other tracks such as "Warehouse Heist" and "Alcatraz Encounter" are tenser and exercise Fielding's mastery of texture and ambience.

It's really quite apparent that Fielding is having a ball. The sound he's cooked up is by turns lean and mean, funky, swinging and — most surprisingly for a hard-as-nails cop drama — emotionally poignant. That's because he builds the score around Harry Callahan's new, ill-fated partner Inspector Kate Moore (played by Tyne Daly, who contributes to the liner notes). This feisty female match for Dirty Harry provides Fielding with an emotional focal point. That's not to say The Enforcer is soft — it's compellingly tender when it needs to be — but otherwise just as tough as anything on the series' first two soundtracks.

After The Enforcer the character of Dirty Harry was dead and buried as far as Clint Eastwood was concerned. He had no intentions of making another, or so the story goes. But Warner Bros. needed a sure-fire hit in '83, and Clint came to their rescue with Sudden Impact, with Schifrin back riding shotgun.

Since it was a new decade — a new era of pumped-up action movies – Schifrin updated his sound with synths that mimic turntablist scratches as well as strings and brass – notably on the up-tempo "Main Title." There also are drum machines and funky slap bass. It's Schifrin gone hip-hop! It's '80s crime funk for a new generation.

"Murder by the Sea" starts innocently enough with smooth jazz-funk, as a chiming keyboard solo tinkles away over a "urban" groove. Halfway through, the groove fades, leaving a spacy sinister mood for violins, woodwinds and piano.

The dichotomy of contemporary style and old school scoring chops continue throughout the score.

On "Frisco Night," pulsing synths and throbbing bass trade passages with dissonant strings and undulating horn tones and echoing percussion to create tension and disorientation.

On "Cocktails of Fire," Schifrin gets into one of his sure-fire action-funk grooves where the rhythm section plays without embellishment for several bars at a time. And when the embellishment comes it's always minimal and tremendously effective.

For all of the tension, there are a number of quiet, somber, soothing and even romantic moods where the, keys, strings and brass come across in reassuringly familiar tones, such as on "The Road to San Paolo" and "You've Come Along Way." Occasionally, as on "Ginley's Bar," the mood gives way to a distinctly '80s brand of instrumental rock.

The oddest bits are carousel organ music for scenes of freaky terror ("Unicorn's Head").

What's striking about Sudden Impact is Schifrin ability to update the "Dirty Harry" sound for the decade of big shoulder pads and bigger hair without getting cheesy about it.

Schifrin's fourth "Dirty Harry" soundtrack (for the fifth movie in the series) demonstrates, once again, the composer's ability to update his crime scoring style for the times — in this case the late '80s.

The updating is most apparent in the midi keyboard textures and occasional use of drum machines. At times (as on "Main Title") the synth sounds gimmicky and dated, but when Schifrin gets into the meat of the score he blends the synths more effectively with brass, strings, percussion. As is Schifrin's habit, he also employs exotic instruments such as a waterphone, which lends itself well to the score's sinister sections.

Since The Dead Pool has never been released before, the listener is treated to suites of short cues taken chronologically from the film. This means that the mood often shifts dramatically within a each track, from serene to action-packed to tense. Schifrin infrequently quotes from his original "Dirty Harry" score.

As on his previous "Dirty Harry" scores, Schifrin never fails to convey the twisted logic of the psychotic killers that Harry Callahan must bring to justice. Searing strings, blaring brass and pummeling percussion ratchet up the tension again and again (as on "The Rules," "The Car" and "Kidnap and Rescue").

The score concludes with a smooth jazz rendition of the "Dirty Harry" love theme, which reminds one again of the '80s, but manages to steer clear of cheesiness.

Overall, The Dead Pool is a fitting finish to the Dirty Harry saga, and one of Schifrin's better efforts from the era.

These CD reviews originally appeared on the author's website www.ScoreBaby.com

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jim Carroll Will Live On...

Jim Carroll
(poet, b. 1949 - d. 2009)

Jim Carroll was a poet and later a musician. He was a heroin addict who documented his joys and tribulation in the book The Basketball Dairies. This was one of my favorite books when I was kid. Aside from the heroin addiction, the book was a wonderful but sad reflection of childhood that many of us could relate to.

I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Carroll when I was at University and even then he seemed a little sick but was still sharp, soft spoken and thankful to everyone he met.

While many jazz musicians used Kerouac as their influence, Jim Carroll to me was the bridge between the "Beat Generation" and the "Punk Movement". He hung out with greats from Allen Ginsberg to Patti Smith. He also had his own band, simply called The Jim Carroll Band which had a minor hit "The People Who Died". While the albums his band made are pretty average it was great snapshot of the period. Well worth seeking out.

Jim Carroll's writing is what really should be celebrated today. If you are in a bookstore take a look at The Basketball Dairies as well as a nice collection entitled Fear Of Dreaming. Both are essential reading by a writer and poet who will be greatly missed. Jim Carroll will live on in everyone he touch through his words.

Charles Mingus: Enigma. Genius. Prophet.

Charles Mingus
(bass, b. 1922 - d. 1979)

You could describe him as an enigma. A genius. A prophet. No matter how you describe him, Charles Mingus has left a large shadow over jazz during his time and since his passing 30 years ago. This week I wanted to discuss the some my favorite works by the great Charles Mingus.

Charles Mingus was not only a magnificent bass player but an incredible forward thinking composer. Many talk of what Goodman, Ellington, Gillespie and Basie have done as composers but not enough has been said about Mingus. Some may find it still hard to dive into his music because there is so much of it. I suggest Mingus Ah Um (Columbia Records) which is still widely available and celebrated its 50 anniversary this past May, as the best place to start.

If you don't own this recording you should; it truly highlights the genius of Mingus as bass player and phenomenal composer. This was a very large ensemble that originally gathered for a loose jam session that instead turned into a well-structured jazz session on the level of a classical performance.

If you would like to learn more about Mingus, I would highly recommend you take the time to read Beneath The Underdog. Beneath The Underdog is the autobiography of Charles Mingus and is a great page-turner. It will take you inside the crazy messed up mind that is Mingus. This is not just about the music. It is about his life. You will quickly learn how childhood shaped his attitude and how it affected many of his relationships (personally and professionally) and how it was brought out in his compositions.

Beneath The Underdog is a great collection of experiences written in every direction. It's not the typical autobiography but it does flow as if you were sitting in the room with him (and he wasn't looking at you while he was telling the story and cooking breakfast). Enjoy.

Below is a video of one of the most famous tracks from Mingus Ah Um "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" from 1975.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jeff "Tain" Watts: Drums Alive!

Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums)

Great jazz drummers are hard to come by these days. You have to say one the most famous left us not too long ago in the shape of Elvin Jones. Roy Haynes, Paul Motian and Jimmy Cobb to name a few, are still alive and kickin' it with a lot of verve. So who among the new breed should you follow? Well, let me suggest Jeff "Tain" Watts. If you listened to any Branford Marsalis album you will have heard Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums.

Jeff "Tain" Watts is a formidable yet playful drummer. His song structure and delivery have become better and more exciting with each album. On his latest, simply titled, Watts (Dark Key Music), he has gathered some usual suspects (Branford Marsalis: saxophones; Terence Blanchard: trumpet; Christian McBride: acoustic bass; Lawrence Fields: piano) but as a unit they put in a superb performance over the course of Watts.

Jeff has a number of albums which have gone in and out of print so I would suggest if you see them used definitely pick one up. Most of his albums are available for download though. Watts is definitely the best I have heard him in a very long time.

If you can't find any of the others this is a good place to start.

Megawatts (Sunnyside; 1991)
Citzen Tain (Columbia; 1998)
Bar Talk (Columbia; 2000)
Detained-Live At The Blue Note (Half Note; 2004)
Folk Songs (Dark Key Music; 2007)
Watts (Dark Key Music; 2009)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

John Taylor "Rosslyn": An Unheard Masterpiece

John Taylor (piano)
Rosslyn (ECM Records, 2003)

John Taylor has been the consummate session musician even with a decent amount of albums as leader. He had an ongoing group with trumpeter, Kenny Wheller and vocalist, Norma Winstone as Azimuth (not the Brazilian group if you've heard of them) and worked on countless other albums. But it is Rosslyn (ECM) that I find one his finest. It is a beautiful, quiet, walking masterpiece in the Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett tradition.

Rosslyn is a true trio album (Marc Johnson, bass; Joey Baron, drums) meaning it doesn't feel like there is a leader. This is a team effort that blends wonderfully from piece to piece. It's hard to believe all this happening when John Taylor was 61 at the time. This is the perfect album to end your day with no matter how good or bad it was. A thoughtful and effortless work that I find something special in with every spin.

Not sure if this is an actual video or something someone put together but it works well with the title track. This album is probably the only one you will find at an actual record store so I highly recommend you buy it. Most of his other albums including Rosslyn are available online and for download.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Terry Callier: His Importance (Revised)

Terry Callier (vocal, guitar; b. 1945)

Terry Callier is a living legend. Some people could compare him to Richie Havens but I would highly disagree. Where Havens pourd his heart into the politics of the day, Terry Callier shined with the sorrow of the moment. Born in Chicago, his lyrics reflect the deep spiritual nature and urban struggles of his upbringing.

Terry Callier had recorded one studio album for Prestige records and two live albums before his critically acclaimed Occasional Rain (Universal) released in 1972. Occasional Rain is a wonderful slice of sixties folk mixed with seventies soul wrapped with the undertones of bop. Pure lyrical poetry in my opinion.

Callier retired during the '80s and learned computer programming. He worked at the University of Chicago until a few DJs/Producers from the highly influential label Acid Jazz label came calling. Callier made a resurgence (mainly in the UK and Europe) in the late '90s with an album entitled Timepeace (Verve, 1998).

He has since recorded 4 more albums including the most recent Hidden Conversations (Mr. Bongo, 2009). He has collaborated with a wide range of artists including Beth Orton, Massive Attack, Urban Species, 4hero and Paul Weller. He is still somewhat under-rated in America but I hope more people get to experience his music because I believe it will transform the way you view music again.

There are 11 studio albums and 5 live albums and if you are truly interested there is a great import compilation called Life Lessons: The Best Of Terry Callier (Music Club Deluxe) which covers everything up to 2006 - Highly recommended.

Here are my top five to purchase:

1) What Colour Is Your Love (Universal)
2) Timepeace (Verve)
3) Look Out (Mr. Bongo)
4) The New Folk Sound (Fantasy)
5) Live At Mother Blues (Premonition)

If you are in the UK you should check him out on his upcoming tour. For the rest of us, check out his classic "Ordinary Joe" from Occasional Rain on the official site Terry Callier.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bank Holiday Greetings With Miles Davis

No post today. Just wishing everyone a peaceful holiday (Labour Day in the U.S.). Enjoy this previous post on Miles Davis. I also found an interesting interview with Miles on the Today Show. It's a pretty standard interview but if you're not familiar with Miles Davis its worth watching and listening.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Quirky Crime Jazz of Peter Thomas

The Best of Edgar Wallace
Peter Thomas, Martin Bottcher & Nora Orlandi
All Score Media

Here's an exciting
collection of beat jazz from 18 b-grade thrillers made in Germany between '61-'71. The series actually consisted of 32 features made between the late '50s and early '70s, all produced by Constantin Films, based on popular fiction -- primarily that of British author Edgar Wallace. With titles such as "The Monster of Soho" and "The Spell of the Sinister One," these flicks featured a plethora of time-tested cliches: the tough but charming hero, the damsel in distress, the sinister villain (often played by everyone's favorite nutcase Klaus Kinski).

When it came to scoring the Edgar Wallace thrillers, Peter Thomas (Raumpatrolle, 100% Cotton) was the most inventive composer at the studio's disposal. His combination of beat jazz and sound effects (gun shots, hand claps, etc.) and penchant for unusual juxtapositions still sound fresh today.
Racing rhythms, sensual horns, pulsing organ riffs are all on display. About 70 percent of the music on this collection is by Thomas, the rest being split between Martin Bottcher and Nora Orlandi.

Thomas is especially essential to the jazzy soundtrack pantheon, and this is a worthy collection. Bear in mind, too, that none of the Thomas soundtracks were released when the movies came out. The liner notes postulate that the studio considered Thomas' music "too weird to play at home". Today's presumably more open-minded music fans will undoubtedly find Thomas' weirdness refreshing.

This review originally appeared on the author's website www.ScoreBaby.com

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Quirky Crime Jazz of Michel Magne

Melodie en Sous Sol / Un Singe en Hiver

Michel Magne


Les Tontons Flingueurs /
Ne Nous Fachons Pas

Michel Magne / Bernard Gerard

One of the great French film composers, Michel Magne (Fantomas, OSS 117) scored his fair share of classic '60s flicks, and Universal has released several of them on a handful of compilations.

A recent Magne double bill from Universal pairs his jazz-tinged score for Henri Verneuil's heist drama Melodie en Sous Sol (aka Any Number Can Win, '63) and his more exotic work for Verneuil's Un Singe en Hiver (aka A Monkey in Winter, '62).

When Magne teamed with Verneuil he was in his early 30s and already displaying a penchant for unconventional orchestration (prepared piano, bursts of percussion) and catchy melodies. In the main theme for Monkey the composer juxtaposes expressive Oriental lute and percussion with sections for solo harmonica against lush strings. The Oriental and harmonica bits reoccur throughout the score, juxtaposed with baroque strings ("Yang Tse Kiang"), Spanish guitar and Mariachi brass ("Corrida Ethylique"), Argentinian accordion and tango tempo ("Pekin-Buenos Aires") and jazz trio ("China Jazz Hot").

For Any Number, Magne favored a big band jazz sound bolstered with swinging string sections ("Palm Beach"), but also explored a glamorous orchestral sound featuring regal brass, chorus and cascading piano chords ("Hymne a L'argent"). The high drama supplied by strings and earthy tones of the jazzier sections is reminiscent of Alex North's score for Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire ('51). The main theme is a scorcher, enflamed by crashing percussion and blaring brass. For Magne's more eccentric side check out "Hold Up (Part 2)," which starts with scraping pizzicato strings and what sounds like a Theremin before swinging away into beat jazz. It's cool, daddy-o.

The Number/Monkey CD closes with jazz organ legend Jimmy Smith's classic take on "Any Number Can Win" as well as a couple of Fred Pallem's unusual modern mixes of themes from both films.

An earlier Universal CD that celebrates the films of Georges Lautner juxtaposes Magne's scores for the action crime comedy Les Tontons Flingeurs (aka Monsieur Gangster, '63), action comedy thriller Les Barbouzes (aka The Great Spy Chase, '64), comedy spy thriller Le Monocle Rit Jaune (aka The Monocle's Sour Laugh, '64) and the crime drama Galia ('66) alongside Bernard Gerard's scores for the crime comedy Ne Nous Fachons Pas (aka Let's Not Get Angry, '66) and the crime drama La Grande Sauterelle ('67).

Among the Magne highlights is the crime jazz of "Route de Nuit," the playfully eccentric "Tamoure," the early rock 'n' roller "Tamoure Hully-Gully," the Western trotter "Barbouzes en Folie," the episodic and atmospheric "Du Rififi au chateau," the modal jazzer "Le Monocle Rit Jaune," the musically comedic "Monocle Story," the Bach-like Swingle Singers showcase "Largo," and the West Coast-style jazzer "Piege Party."

For his part, Gerard provides a big sky Western theme for Ne Nous Fachons Pas, a bit of baroque jazz ("Ballade Romantique"), some slick '60s surf rock ("Rosbif Attack"), a "Gloria" rip-off ("Akou," featuring an English language vocal by Graeme Allwright) and tense theme combining fuzz guitar, strings and drums for La Grande Sauterelle as well as a full throttle fuzz guitar rocker for the same picture ("Mechoui").

All told, these Universal discs display Magne's penchant for experimental flourish as well as the under-heralded film work of Bernard Gerard.

This review previously appeared on the author's site www.ScoreBaby.com

Dizzy Gillespie "The Quintet": Why It's Important

The Quintet
Jazz At Massey Hall

A landmark happening. An "it-will-never-happen-again" or "once-in-a-lifetime" moment. Five legends (and I mean LEGENDS) of jazz got together one evening in 1953, to record a tension-filled concert at Massey Hall. Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Bud Powell (piano), Charlie Parker (sax), Max Roach (drums) and Charles Mingus (bass) all in the same room. The album would be called, The Quintet Jazz At Massey Hall (Debut/OJC).

This was the first and last time these giants had gotten together. Yes, you and I should have been there. Fortunately and unfortunately as history tells it there weren't a lot of people at this show surprisingly. This was a firecracker of a show because some of the musicians didn't get along in the first place, but also Charlie "Bird" Parker arrived without his horn and had to borrow one.In addition to the fact the Bird and Diz where left to wait for a second flight to Toronto after the rest of the band had left due to over booking.

The performance itself is as you would expect, on fire. These were bop legends still with all their chops and ready to set the stage ablaze. Oh, and did I mention--there was no time for rehearsals? Ripping through "now classics" like Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts" and "A Night In Tunisia" and the wonderful Hammerstein-Kern "All The Things You Are", this was a set not to be missed. Thankfully Charles Mingus had recorded the date and it would later be released on vinyl (and of course CD).

There has been much said about this show and its real importance. Some question if it really was that great of a performance. Well that is up to the ear of the listener. But most of the people I know who have listened to this album believe as I do--it is one of the greatest concerts of all time.

While no video exists of this concert there is footage of some of the performers together in different setting. So take a look and then imagine them all together and you may get close to to that one night in May of 1953. For further study into this little slice of history there is great book called Quintet Of The Year by Geoffrey Haydon that does a full diagnoisis of this night. A great read.